Nick Warren and Global Underground have enjoyed a solid, successful partnership through the years, which has resulted in 8 DJ mix compilations where Warren has been able to strut his stuff and show us how his skills and musical tastes evolve over time. It all started 21 years ago with a live recording made in Prague that´s still capable of giving us a goosebump or two, and that is remembered fondly to this day.
GU003: Nick Warren: Live in Prague was released on March 24, 1997, and is a very special compilation for several reasons: it was Warren’s first mix for GU, it was the second release from the DJ mix collection and it´s one of only three live recordings released by GU (the others being GU001 Tony De Vit in Tel-Aviv and GU004 Paul Oakenfold in Oslo), all subsequent releases where mixed in the studio, inspired by the gigs played in their respective locations.
Warren had been a DJ in Bristol since 1988 playing a wide array of styles, from reggae to independent music, until the advent of house music, which made him one of the most popular DJ´s in the UK by the mid-90´s, DJing for Massive Attack, performing in clubs such as Vision and Cream and producing dance music as one half of the acclaimed duo Way Out West. By 1997 he was already an accomplished artist, so the newly formed Global Underground series asked him to record a mix for their second compilation, set in the city of Prague, taking off as an international name afterwards.
The resulting set can be best described as a classic, a collection that is best appreciated when perceived as a testament to the sounds of those years, to the heyday of progressive house and trance, meaning big, epic breakdowns, booming kicks, plenty of snare rolls and lots of melody. What Warren achieves with this style is knowing when and where to let a tune unfold and where to cut it a bit shorter, keeping the audience engaged and staying away from the monotony that could be easily created when mixing progressive tunes, by just piling up song after song, breakdown after breakdown, keeping things moving instead and giving the set its own personality. There are some instantly recognizable tracks, such as Energy 52´s “Cafe del Mar”, Nalin & Kane´s “Beachball”, The Freak & Mac Zimms´ “Submission” and Anjo´s “Sunrise”
It could be said that this mix sounds dated compared to the later GU compilations, and there´s also the opinion that the sequence is not as fluid and flawless as could be expected, but there are a few things to keep in mind when listening to this set: this is GU´s second release and Warren´s first mix for the series, so they´re still in the process of finding and refining their respective sounds, a process that later gave us excellent, unforgettable mixes, starting with Warren´s next GU mix in Brazil and continuing for 6 more sets where his technique and musical ear just keep improving and improving. Also, this is a live recording, so we can´t expect the same meticulous preparation and mixing as in a studio recording, transitions are not all going to be as smooth and the sequence and selection of tracks is mostly done on the fly, as the DJ reads the audience and its response to the music.
In all, the Prague mix is still a pleasurable experience, one that´s full of nostalgia and memories for those who lived the era, but also representing a reference point in which to appreciate the evolution of house music and dance floors over the decades in general, and the personal and professional journey of one of the most influential and exciting DJs around as well. Nick Warren has since given us many, many unforgettable moments, but we can see the seeds of his unique voice in the GU003 compilation, and that makes it a priceless collection of music.